roasted garlic pasta salad

$8.53 recipe / $1.06 serving

This pasta salad is super easy to throw together and is surprisingly filling! I was also really happy with how creamy and delicious it was, despite the fact that I used part-skim ricotta. It looks and tastes like a really creamy, guilt-inducing pasta salad, when really it’s quite innocent!

Half of the reason that I wanted to make this pasta salad is that I wanted to try out a technique that I’ve been seeing around the internet: roasting garlic in the microwave. I ruined one head of garlic in the process, but I think I got it right after that. The end result isn’t as caramelized as real, oven roasted garlic, but the flavor is definitely good enough to make this technique worth it when you’re in a hurry. Roasting garlic in an oven can take almost an hour and this only takes 2 minutes – literally!

There are a few different techniques that I’ve seen, some microwaving for a minute or so, and some for up to 8 minutes (with water added), but I found 2 minutes with no water to be just right for me. I’m sure every microwave is different and each head of garlic will require a slightly different amount of time to cook, so I suggest microwaving in small, one minute increments until you get the technique just right. You want the garlic to be soft, and very fragrant, not brown and hard. Microwaving past the point of softness will only lead you down the road to burnville, and believe me, it doesn’t taste or smell pretty!

Oh, one more thing. If you have access to inexpensive fresh basil, it would be to-die-for in this recipe. Just add it on in with the spinach or even in place of the spinach!

Roasted Garlic Pasta

roasted garlic pasta salad

3.2 from 5 reviews
roasted garlic pasta salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $8.53
Cost Per Serving: $1.06
Serves: 8
  • 1 head garlic $0.59
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil $0.09
  • 1 lb. pasta shells $1.29
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese $2.45
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan $0.23
  • to taste salt & pepper $0.05
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes $2.50
  • 3 cups baby spinach $1.33
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut approximately ½ inch off the top of the head of garlic. Place the garlic bulb in a small bowl or dish and drizzle ½ tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves. Cover the bowl with an inverted plate. Microwave on high, in one minute increments, until the garlic is soft and fragrant (about 2 minutes). Use caution when touching the dishes, they will be very hot. Allow the garlic to cool.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add the pasta, and cook for 7-10 minutes or until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, squeeze the garlic cloves from the head and mince well. Add the minced garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta cheese, a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper, and about ½ tsp of salt. Add the ½ cup of hot, starchy pasta cooking water. Stir until it forms a smooth sauce.
  4. Drain the pasta. Return the drained pasta to the warm pot (the burner should be turned off). Add the fresh baby spinach and pour the ricotta sauce over top. Slice the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pot as well. Stir until everything is well mixed. Add in the parmesan cheese and stir again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm!

roasted garlic pasta salad

Step By Step Photos

cut top off of garlicTo cook the garlic in the microwave, begin by cutting a little off the top of the head to expose the cloves.

drizzle garlic with oilPlace the head of garlic in a small dish or bowl and drizzle about a half tablespoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves. This will help keep them from burning.

lidPlace an inverted plate over top of your bowl or dish. Microwave on high, in one minute increments, until the garlic is soft and very fragrant. Mine took two minutes and after that it began to burn (even when I added water to the dish). The garlic will hiss and pop during cooking, and some of the cloves may jump out of the head!

roasted garlicWhen it’s finished, it will be soft, kind of mushy, and it will smell really REALLY good. The cloves will be about the same color as they were fresh, but they will look slightly transparant. Allow the garlic to cool.

minced garlicOnce it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the head and mince them. They’ll likely be pretty sticky.

cook pastaBring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta shells according to the package directions (boil 7-10 minutes). When the water gets cloudy and starchy (like in the picture), dip in a measuring cup and reserve a half cup of it for the sauce.

ricottaWhile the pasta is cooking, place the minced garlic, ricotta cheese, freshly cracked pepper, and about a 1/2 tsp of salt in a bowl.

ricotta sauceAdd a half cup of the hot, starchy pasta water and stir until it is all smooth.

cherry tomatoesSlice the cherry tomatoes in half.

combine ingredientsWhen the pasta is finished cooking, drain it well and then return it to the warm pot (make sure the burner is turned off). Add the fresh baby spinach, the ricotta sauce, and sliced tomatoes. The residual heat will slightly wilt the spinach leaves.

stir to combineStir everything until combined, and then add the parmesan cheese and stir again. The reason I added the parmesan at the end is because I didn’t want it to melt from the heat. Once everything is combined, the temperature is considerably lower and you won’t have melted parmesan cheese clumping up and sticking to the spoon. It just evenly coats everything instead.

roasted garlic pasta saladTaste the pasta salad and add salt and pepper as needed. I like to add freshly cracked pepper to each serving.


  1. Kirsten says:

    Made it for dinner tonight/lunch for tomorrow. It was extremely easy to make, yet I don’t think I’ll be making it again. It barely had any flavor. I tried pawning it off on everyone in the house, no one liked it.

  2. haley says:

    Well, I gave up when I did the first step and the garlic exploded and caught fire in the microwave.

  3. Jenn says:

    Just curious if anyone has tried greek yogurt instead of ricotta cheese. I’m wondering if the greek yogurt might add more flavor while still providing a creamy texture.

  4. aheather says:

    I made just made this and although it was super easy the flavors were very bland.I even roasted the garlic the tratraditional way. I ended up adding pesto to give it more flavor and it is way better.

  5. ohjennran says:

    Made this for dinner and it was great. We had leftovers, ate it hot and ate it cold. Great quick meal during the week. As with most things, it was more flavorful the next day. found the link on pinterest.

  6. Rosemary says:

    Made this today – it is delicious! My kids really liked it too (ages 8,6 &3). This is quick and easy; definitely a repeat.

  7. Laurie says:

    Made this today. So delicious! I love the slight crunch from the lightly wilted spinach! Makes a large amount so this would be perfect for a potluck!

  8. Shayla says:

    Made this last night and it was incredible. I roasted the garlic in my toaster oven and used rapini instead of spinach because it was on sale this week. Will definitely make this again!

  9. Kristen says:

    I made this tonight and it was delicious. Such a quick and simple weeknight meal. I added a splash of gremolata olive oil and a splash of tuscan herb olive oil along with some fresh basil and plenty of salt. Next time I will wilt the spinach in a little oil with some garlic in a pan and then add it to the pasta. But overall, this was fantastic.

  10. Out if curiosity, how much minced garlic do you get from a head of garlic? I use pre-minced from a jar.

  11. Anonymous says:

    We didn’t like this dish, and we are not picky eaters… I hated throwing out good food when there are starving people in Africa…

  12. Anonymous says:

    I found the taste to be very bland. I roasted the garlic in the oven. I’ll be adding some mrs dash and maybe some black beans and hoping it’ll be more edible and not go to waste. It was fun to make though and I’m looking forward to trying more recipes.

  13. Anonymous says:

    like others, I added olive oil (prob close to 1/4 cup) and more grated cheese (at least 1/2 cup total). also, I added some fresh chopped garlic because the roasted just wasn’t enough. I love the tip about roasting the garlic in the microwave..that works great! They make something very similar at my grocery store and this mimics it very closely.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just made this for dinner. DELISH!!!!! It even got a thumbs up by my 4 littlest critics! I followed as it, except I used a whole wheat penne. I came across your blog on Pinterest and look forward to trying many more recipes. Thank you!

  15. OH NO! Honestly, I’ve never had a problem with it… My knife just goes right in and through. Maybe your knife needs to be sharpened? A lot of times if your knife isn’t sharp enough it won’t “grab” whatever your cutting and will slide off… causing bad injury :( They say that a dull knife is the most dangerous thing in a kitchen. I hope you’re okay!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Is there a trick to cutting the top off of the head of garlic? It was pretty tough for me, the garlic kept sliding around and the knife did not want to cut through. I ended up in urgent care with a deep cut (I should have stopped while I was ahead!)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this awesome recipe! I made this for a company event and made extra for my family.

  18. I made this salad last night (tossing in some red onion and chopped green pepper) and it was Entirely Splendid. My husband adored it, and said that we need to make it often. Thanks for keeping this blog – there are so many fantastic recipes in here!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I made this and the ricotta cheese had ZERO flavor. I added other things to try and make it have some taste and it was awful. My daughter, who loves pasta didn’t even like it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    This was very easy and good. I used two heads of garlic — the first knocked the dish off its top after 40 secs and the second took a bit over a minute, but both were perfect. Also used some basil and next time will use more of it plus veggies. Ricotta did exactly what you said — nice creamy flavor but lighter than a real cream sauce. We’ll have this again, no question. Thank you! Great to have something different with pasta. (Found on Pinterest)

  21. Anonymous says:

    This meal was very easy and pretty good. Needed lots of pepper to season and put red pepper flakes on as well. Made it early in the week and looking forward to having the leftovers!

  22. Just made this recipe for lunch this afternoon! We absolutely loved it. We added a bunch of chick peas and about 2 tbs of lemon juice to the whole thing, and hubby added some cayenne pepper to his (spicy isn’t my thing!) I’m very happy with the results. I’ve divided the leftovers into mason jars for grab-and-go lunches for the rest of the week!

  23. Anonymous says:

    I just found this blog at nearly 12pm and can’t wait to get cooking over the weekend! I made something quite like this, but with kale instead of spinach that I boiled for about 4 minutes with the cooking pasta. I made a sauce out of ricotta and garlic, though I didn’t microwave it, and cherry tomatoes. It was really good and my family liked it! I love kale…=)

  24. I also oven roasted my garlic which if you have the time, I highly recommend. It’s super easy.

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